Mt. Yake (焼岳)

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Yakedake is an active volcano separating Kamikochi from Shin-Hotaka Hot Spring. The summit is still smoldering and is marked by a small, majestic crater lake.

Mt. Yake

The hike:

Nakanoyu approach: From the parking lot on the road behind Nakanoyu hotel, enter the dense forest and climb up, up, and up some more. The hike is quite steep, and after about an hour or so you’ll come to a trail junction. The trail on the right leads down to Nakanoyu Hot Spring (which is closed as of the summer of 2012). The trail flattens out for a short time while the views start to open up. You can see the top of Mt. Yake directly in front of you, though it will still take some time and effort to reach it. Continue plodding along toward the summit. The trail will become rockier and rockier, but you’ll reach the crater rim in about 90 minutes, depending on your speed. When you reach the summit area, the trail will curve to the right and then take a sharp left toward the high point. You’ll have to climb up quite a few rocks to get to the top, but the trail is marked with paint marks and arrows. Don’t get too close to the rocks spewing poisonous gases, no matter how tempting they look. The top is flat and has room for about a dozen people. If the weather is good, then you’ll see the peaks of the Kita Alps completely surrounding you, as well as Mt. Norikura and Ondake to the south. Continue back the way you came or consider hiking down into Kamikochi (described below). Another option would be to stay on the ridge line and climb Mt. Nishi-Hotaka, although you’ll need to stay in one of the huts along the way and the trail is not used much.

Kamikochi approach: If you’re doing this as a day hike and not staying in Kamikochi, then you might find it faster to get off at Taisho-ike bus stop, since it’s closer to the trailhead. Otherwise, at the bus terminal head left to the river bank and take the trail going left, away from Kappabashi bridge (though it’s ok to cross the bridge and walk on the other side of the river if you prefer). The path will follow the bank of the river until reaching a road. Turn right on the paved road, crossing two bridges (Tashirobashi 田代橋 and Hotakabashi 穂高橋). Once you cross the river stay on the road for about 20 meters until it meets up with another paved road. You’ll see a trail with a wooden gate right in front of you. This is the trail up to Nishihotaka, so don’t take this trail. Instead, turn left and head away from Kamikochi on the paved road and you’ll see the trailhead for Mt. Yake on your right after about 10 minutes. Turn right here and enter the dense forest. The first part of the hike is quite flat as you traverse your way over to the main gully. The trail will start to become steeper the longer you climb, so pace yourself and drink plenty of fluids. After about 45 minutes of hiking you’ll reach an area that has some log steps and short steel ladders to help you up the exposed tree roots. Beyond this there is one area that involves a traverse on a steel bridge with steep drops on your left. After this the trail opens up a bit and traverses along the base of some rock cliffs. You may be wondering how to navigate this section, but if you look ahead you’ll see an aluminum ladder rising vertically up the rock faces. This is the most dangerous part of the hike, and if you’re scared of heights then do not attempt this section and turn back. Otherwise, take a deep breath, grab onto the ladder, and hoist yourself up. This area can be a bit of a bottleneck on the weekends during the popular hiking months, especially when you’ve got large groups trying to ascend/descend at the same time. At the top of the ladder you’ll navigate past a rock area using chains and the trail will reach an open meadow with a lot of wildflowers and views of Mt. Yake in front of you. Take the switchbacks up to the ridge, where you’ll find Mt. Yake hut. The hut is open from the beginning of June until the end of the October and costs 7100 yen with 2 meals. There is no water source here (the hut will gladly sell you either bottled water or rain water gathered from the roof). It’s much better to bring enough water from Kamikochi so you won’t have to buy overpriced drinks. The hut also sells instant noodles for 500 yen (they’ll provide the noodles and hot water, and you can sit inside the hut to enjoy it if the weather is really bad). Anyway, from the hut the trail turns left and climbs up to a lookout point after 10 minutes. Here you’ll find some steam vents rising through the rocks. They’re natural heaters and you can sit and enjoy the hot volcanic steam rising from deep within the earth. Take a break here, as the real hike is about to begin. If the weather is clear then you’ll see Mt. Yake rising directly in front of you. Drop down to the saddle and start the long, tough climb towards the top. If the cloud is in then take great care, as it’s easy to veer off the trail. The best thing to do is to follow other people and stick carefully to the paint marks on the rocks. It should take around an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the summit. From here, you can either descend via the Nakanoyu route (though you’d need your own transport or try your luck hitching). It’s better to retrace your steps back the way you came. It should take anywhere between 4 to 6 hours to complete the hike. If you’ve got extra time then stop by Kamikochi Onsen hotel for a hot bath (though the bath closes at 3pm so keep an eye on the time).

When to go: This hike can be safely done from late April to mid November. A winter ascent is not impossible with the proper equipment. Click here for a group who climbed in January 2004.

Access: There are 2 main approaches to the summit, so take your pick of trails. Remember that private cars are not allowed into Kamikochi, but the other trailheads are accessible by car. You can get to Kamikochi by bus from either Takayama (高山) or Matsumoto (松本) stations, but need to first take a train to Shin-shimashima station if coming from Matsumoto. In addition, there are direct overnight buses from Tokyo and Osaka to Kamikochi. Check the Alpico Group website (in Japanese) for more information.

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~900m)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Explore posts in the same categories: Nagano hikes (長野県)

Tags: , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

14 Comments on “Mt. Yake (焼岳)”

  1. Yake-dake works fine as a ski-tour too, although the route is completely different from the summer path. See:-

  2. Eran Mick Says:


    I’m planning on going to Kamikochi in mid-October. Can you please supply some more information on making the Yake a 2-day trip? Such as the huts on the way to the second mountain you mentioned, when they are open, how long the track etc. Assuming I start at Kamikochi.

    Thank you very much.

    • wesu Says:


      I personally haven’t attempted the Yake to Nishi-Hotaka route, but based upon my research of Japanese sites, it seems like the best place to stay would be Yake-dake goya if you’ve gotten a late start. From Yake-dake hut to Nishi-hotaka sansou, it takes about 5 hours or so, depending on your speed, so technically speaking, if you got an early enough start, you could make it from Kamikochi, up and over Mt. Yake, and onto Nishi-hotaka all in one day. Of course, in October, you have to take into account the limited daylight hours.

      Be careful of snow on the approach to Nishi-hotaka. Snowfall is not unheard of in mid-October.

      After you reach the hut at Nishi-hotaka, it’s a 3-hour rock scramble to the summit of Nishi-hotaka (elevation 2900m). From there, you can retrace your steps and either descend to Shin-hotaka hot spring via gondola, or take the spur trail just past the hut down to Kamikochi, making for an interesting loop.

      Let me know if you have any other questions


      • bakeneko Says:

        I hiked Yake-dake to Nishi-ho solo in the early summer of 2007, and it was … an interesting experience! I have absolutely no idea if my experience was common, or if I just got lucky, but when I was there the trail was totally over grown, had crumbled down the sides of the cliffs at various points, and I didn’t meet a single other hiker that day (until I got to the Nishi hut). It didn’t seem like a very popular hike.

        If I recall, the trail goes back down into the forest, and you don’t get out until you reach the Nishi hut. Obviously it’s not a level hike across though, it’s up and down all the way, amongst dense forest, with some scrambling along the sides of cliffs.

        I reached the hut, had a bite to eat and enjoyed the view, and then on my way back to Yake-dake I managed to put out both of my knees. A thick, cold mist rolled in so that I could barely see the path in front of me, and I started hearing voices – all the while hobbling back up the trail at a snail’s pace. I’ve never been so thankful for hiking poles, nor so desperate to get out of a situation.

        What was supposed to be fun day hike turned into an eerie, painful, hours-long trek through an overgrown, mist-filled forest. I was pretty freaked out but the most I could do was limp along one step at a time. I would hear men talking, and then their voices would suddenly stop, mid-sentence, like a radio being turned off (that’s how I thought of it at the time). I started seeing things out of the corner of my eyes – it was pretty damn unsettling! But thanks to my bum knees I couldn’t go any faster than a limp – even though I desperately wanted to.

        After hours of this I eventually made it back to Yake-dake, and then back down to the parking lot as late evening approached. My tiny, red Subaru had never looked so friendly and welcoming.

        So yes, Yake to Nishi: an interesting experience.

        And of course, Yake-dake itself is a fantastic day-hike. I did it many times when I was in Japan, although I never did go down and check-out the lake.

  3. MD Says:

    Has anyone else hiked Yake to Nishi recently? I’m having trouble finding any info about this hike (in English) except for what is above.
    I guess it’s not to popular a route. Updated info or links to trail maps would be great! Thanks!

    • Tj Says:

      Dose anyone know if it’s worth hiking the Japan alps in the last week of May? Afraid the trails will still be covers in snow!.. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 😁

  4. LC Says:

    We just hiked it a few days ago and there is still snow in areas making it a little dicey in a few spots, particularly just before the final ladder but definitely doable in some good hiking shoes and the views are fantastic from the top and the crater lake is lovely! Just take care on the icy patches.

  5. LC Says:

    The weather was great for us (sun all day) but it does get a little cool at the top so we needed just a few light weight long sleeve tops. There was also the risk of a rain shower and on our way down it did start to cloud over and get a little cooler so I would definitely be prepared with a sweater. With snow still on the mountain, gloves were also useful for clambering across steep snowy areas. As I say, we were very lucky with the weather though so check the temperature in Kamikochi before you leave if you’re staying outside the valley. Have a fantastic time.

    Also if you haven’t seen it yet, this is the English guide to Kamikochi:

    Click to access kamikochiEnglish.pdf

    • LC Says:

      I’d also recommend getting off the bus at the imperial hotel stop as it’s the closest to the start of the trail. It’s the stop before the main Kamikochi bus terminal.

  6. Lara Says:

    HI, my name is Lara and me and some friends did the kumano kodo last year where we walked three days and stayed in huts for 2 nights before getting back to Osaka.
    Now this year we are in Nagoya and would love to do another three day trip and sleep in the mountains do I can continue my walk the next day. BUt I can’t seem to master the art of understanding if this is possible:) we would be up and ready to go on May 2nd and need to be back in Nagoya the 5th is this possible to do this ?
    Woud be a life saver if anybody could help me out , much love the worst travelplanner in history :)

    • wes Says:


      Golden Week is a little too early to do Mt. Yake, as there is still a lot of snow lining the peak. Kamikochi is open during this time and will be teeming with hikers preparing to climb up the snow-capped alpine peaks. The hut on the mountain doesn’t open until mid-June, so perhaps it’s better to visit a mountain at a lower elevation that will be free of snow

  7. Susan Says:

    Thanks for these great instructions! We went up yesterday and it was fantastic.

    I think the route from the Taishoike might be closed? We couldn’t get across the bridge, unless we were going the wrong way! We ended up getting a taxi to Kamikōchi bus stop and starting there instead!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s